By Mike Sherman
Here’s a scenario for the NBA-fixated fans of Oklahoma to stew over Tuesday as they count down the hours before the NBA Draft lottery (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
The Sonics’ future home could hinge on ping-pong balls. At least that’s the theory advanced in this column by the Seattle Times’ Jerry Brewer.
What if he’s right? What if getting one of the top two picks is the only thing that could keep the Sonics from moving, possibly to Oklahoma City (though as I write this a colleague emails me a report that Sonics owner Clay Bennett will consider Kansas City).
The theory that Greg Oden or Kevin Durant could save the Sonics for Seattle goes like this:
The Sonics, who have an 18 percent chance of getting one of the top two picks, get lucky but not outrageously lucky (the last two teams to draft No. 1 — Toronto and Milwaukee — had only an 18 percent and 13 percent chances of finishing in the top 2). They draft Oden or Durant, who immediately transform the franchise and the voting public, which rises up and passes a referendum to spend $200 million or so on a new arena in Renton.
Basketball in Greater Seattle is saved and Oklahoma City turns to who? The Memphis Grizzlies? The Cavalry of the CBA?
Some of that sounds like the stuff of fairy tales, sure. But Seattle sports fans remember the time Ken Griffey’s slide — and the Angels’ dive — saved the Mariners.
In the summer of 1995, Griffey was injured — isn’t he always? — and the Mariners were 13 games out of first place. They appeared to be headed out of town. Not that anyone cared. Attendance was dismal at the Kingdome, a mausoleum the team was desperate to abandon, even if it meant bolting Seattle.
Then the Angels choked, the Mariners rallied and Griffey slid home with the winning run in a one-game playoff against the Angels to win the AL West title. The Mariners went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, even beat the Yankees in the first round. The fans who jumped on the bandwagon rally support for a new stadium. Safeco Field is built, and the Mariners remain in Seattle.
Which is probably the biggest reason the Sonics won’t. The good folks of Washington appear to be weary of paying for stadiums for millionare athletes and billionaire owners. But let’s not wake Jerry Brewer from his sweet dream just yet.
If it’s really possible that getting Oden or Durant could trigger a chain reaction that Saves Their Sonics and convinces Citizens for More Important Things there really aren’t more important things, what are the NBA-starved folks in the OKC to think about as they ponder pingpong balls?
Should they hope the Sonics come out fourth or fifth in the NBA Draft Lottery and a month later draft Florida center Joakim Noah and his lame hairdo, jump shot and dance moves, thereby scaring off the last remaining Sonics fans and sealing their farewell to the great Northwest?
Only if you believe if fairy tales.
Bet I know which way Oklahoma City’s most leveraged NBA fans are rooting.